Pakistan warns over Afghan intervention
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar reiterated Tuesday his country's support of the U.S.-led fight against terrorism but warned that the outside world should not try to forcibly impose a proxy government on Afghanistan in place of the ruling Taliban.
With the prospect of U.S. strikes on Afghanistan growing, Sattar said it was "very important for the world at large to understand Afghanistan."
In the past, he said, "those who intervened in Afghanistan and tried to plot their own preferred leaders on Afghanistan paid a very high price for that blunder."
Sattar speaking following a series of meetings with European Union officials in Pakistan at the start of a five-day, five-nation tour of Muslim countries.
Referring to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, he warned against outside forces responding favorably to requests from Afghan groups for military assistance.
"We fear that any such decision on the part of foreign powers to give assistance to one side or the other in Afghanistan is a recipe for great suffering for the people of Afghanistan," he said.
The alliance, which controls only about 5 percent of Afghanistan's territory but remains the U.N.-recognized government, has offered its services to the United States in the event it launches strikes on Afghanistan in retaliation for the attacks on New York and Washington.
Washington has warned the Taliban they will face military action unless they hand over the chief suspect in the attacks, exiled Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden.
The European Union team's whirlwind tour was designed to shore up support among Muslim nations to build a coalition for what it calls the "worldwide alliance in the fight against terrorism."
Other nations on the tour are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria.
Speaking alongside Sattar, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, who heads the delegation, praised the "brave stance" taken by Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in giving his country's backing and cooperation in the campaign.
"Pakistan has shown it can and is willing in very difficult circumstances to take up its responsibility as a member of the international community," he said.
In return, he said, the European Union pledged its "full and unreserved support" and would work to build a new relationship with the Pakistani government.
"The time has come," Michel said, "to try to build new conditions to improve and to build new relationships between Pakistan and EU in order to construct and to feed a new and long-term partnership."
One initial step announced was the promise of $18 million in emergency aid to help the country cope with an anticipated flood of refugees if the United States goes ahead with strikes on Afghanistan.
EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, who is part of the delegation, said Europe saw "no price tag" in terms of the quantity of assistance.
"We must dig deep in our pockets to make sure Pakistan isn't destabilized by the humanitarian crisis that may be about to engulf the country," Patten said.
More than 1 million Afghans are thought to have fled their homes in the past two weeks alone, fearing the prospect of U.S. military strikes on Afghanistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding.
Another EU measure, Patten said, would be the recommendation that cooperation agreements stalled after the military seizure of power in Pakistan be immediately restarted.
Over the weekend, Washington announced it was dropping sanctions imposed on Pakistan in the wake of 1998 nuclear tests. On Monday the Islamabad government signed an agreement with the United States restructuring some of its massive debt.
The European Union team repeated a line that is likely to be a key feature of their five-nation tour -- that the campaign against terrorism should not be seen as a war on Islam and needs the support of Muslims if it is to be effective.
"Terrorism is a global challenge demanding a global answer," Michel said.
"These attacks have been attacks on the whole of the international community of every faith and culture. The heads of state and government explicitly rejected any equation of groups of fanatical terrorists with the Arab and Muslim world just as they also emphasized the need to combat any nationalist, racist and xenophobic drift.
"The support of the Arab and Muslim world to the international alliance against terrorism is essential," he said.
Such a stance was supported by Pakistan, Sattar said.
"The terrorists are criminals; they must be dealt with as criminals," he said.
Sattar said Pakistan was fully behind the need for "long-term cooperation at the global level in the fight against terrorism" and thanked the European Union envoys for the "sympathetic and friendly observations they have made in regard to the difficult situation Pakistan finds itself in."
President Musharraf's declaration of support to the U.S.-led campaign has been met with protests by several hard-line Islamic groups in Pakistan who have warned of a jihad, or holy war, in the event of U.S. strikes on Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, Sattar said, Islamabad was committed to the campaign against terrorism and the need to eliminate its "root causes" at a global level.
Pakistan, he said, "can be relied on to be steadfast in its cooperation in the fight against terrorism, now and in the future."
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